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 Kurd-Turkmen talks top Turkish PM Iraq agenda

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Kurd-Turkmen talks top Turkish PM Iraq agenda  28.3.2011  

March 28, 2011

BAGHDAD, — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit Iraq and attempt to broker talks between ethnic Turkmen and Kurds over their rival claims to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, a Turkmen politician said on Sunday.

"Turkey is pressuring us to narrow our differences with the Kurds" over Kirkuk, said Saadeddin Arkij, head of Iraq's Turkmen Front, the largest political party representing the country's Turkmen minority.

Erdogan arrives on Monday for a two-day visit to Iraq, during which he will also visit the Kurdistan regional capital of Erbil, becoming the first Turkish prime minister to do so.

"One of the aims of the visit is to try and narrow the gap between Turkmen and Kurds, but it is not yet certain what measures he will take," Arkij said, adding                    

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
that Turkmen politicians and MPs had been invited to visit the Turkish embassy in Baghdad during Erdogan's trip.

The principal dispute between the Kurds and Turkmen is over the oil hub of Kirkuk, which has a mixed Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen population and is claimed by all three groups.

The governor of Kirkuk province and the head of its provincial council, who officially report to the Arab-led central government in Baghdad, quit earlier this month,
www.ekurd.netcomplaining it was impossible to govern because of the competing claims.

Kirkuk province is one of a number of territories that the Kurds want to incorporate in their autonomous region in the north.

The fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has rear-bases in the border area, will also be discussed during Erdogan's visit, the sources in Ankara said.

Turkey has repeatedly accused the Iraqi Kurds of turning a blind eye to activity within Iraq by the PKK but their leaders have been careful no to anger the larger neighbour.

Turkish firms provide some 80 percent of the region's food and clothes, and trade rose 30 percent between 2008 and 2009. Overall Iraq-Turkish trade, much of which passes through Kurdistan, amounted to seven billion dollars in 2009.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and a delegation of businessmen are to accompany Erdogan.

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is one of the most disputed areas by the regional government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region clamming it to be historically a Kurdish city, it lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region, the population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs,
www.ekurd.netChristians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of Baghdad. Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas through having back its Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs relocated in the city during the former regime’s time to their original provinces in central and southern Iraq.

The article also calls for conducting a census to be followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having it as an independent province.

The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry.

The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the city. 

Kurdish populations live in northeastern Syria [western Kurdistan] and western Iran [eastern Kurdistan] as well as southeastern Turkey [northern Kurdistan] and northern Iraq [southern Kurdistan].

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